find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Curious students probe space law

Curious students probe space law

Four students from Melbourne University Law School recently won the International Air and Space Association Moot Court Competition, beating England’s Cambridge University.

The mooting scenario involved mining in other planets, ownership of minerals in asteroids and planets, and whose responsibility it is when astronauts become stranded in outer space.

“It [was] all hypothetical and set in, like, 2050,” said JD student Jack Nelson, who mooted for the applicants with his classmate Benjamin Muller. Jonathon McCoy and Nicholas Baum argued for the other side.

The team registered for the moot in January this year and had to submit 18,000 words worth of submissions before the regional Asia-Pacific rounds, held in Sydney in April.

Not knowing anything about space law previously, and with no experts in the field at Melbourne University to help, the team managed to take out first prize at the World Championships in Hong Kong on 27 July.

“Space law is one of those weird areas where, in the 1970s, the US and Former Soviet Union seemed to think that by the year 2000 we’d all be living on the moon, so there’s actually a lot of law that they wrote together and passed through the United Nations and it’s now all in treaty form, so there’s very extensive law on outer space,” said Nelson.

Many countries, including Australia (despite its limited space capability), have signed and ratified the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty, formally known as the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

”The only thing there isn’t is case law,” said Nelson, “but we relied a lot on case law from the International Court of Justice just for general points of international law and damages and liabilities.”

The successful landing of NASA's Curiosity rover on Monday (6 August) represented, more than an engineering miracle, a clear path forward for earthlings to explore the red planet in the next two decades. Nelson, like thousands of others, watched the touchdown with interest.

“If they find a lot of minerals, which they’re quite likely to do, it really might spark interest here on earth for perhaps not man missions to Mars but robotic ones that can actually retrieve minerals,” he said.

“Although, the problem that they seem to be having is that if they managed to get minerals back from Mars it would make those minerals a lot less valuable. The main one they want is platinum … here on earth it’s very rare. If you open up the entire solar system then platinum suddenly becomes very common and therefore very cheap, so getting returns on your investment for funding a spaceship to go all the way there is not really feasible.”

A new start-up company, Planetary Resources, plans to mine nearby asteroids for platinum. If successful the endeavour could yield billions of dollars. Investors reportedly include Google co-founder Larry Page, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Hollywood director James Cameron and former Microsoft chief software engineer Charles Simonyi. The start-up is partnering with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

“When we registered [for the moot] we thought it’d just be something interesting … but by 2050 this will probably definitely be happening as people on Earth search for more and more minerals,” said Nelson.

Nelson has recently accepted a job offer from King & Wood Mallesons but said he would be very interested in working in space law if the opportunity arose in the future.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Curious students probe space law
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Jackie Rhodes
Dec 12 2017
Report sheds light on LGBTQI inclusion in law firms
A recent report has revealed the varying perceptions on LGBTQI diversity and inclusion in the Austra...
Women in business
Dec 12 2017
Annabel Crabb headlines Women in Business Forum
Political journalist Annabel Crabb has appeared at the Coleman Greig Lawyers Women in Business Forum...
Dec 11 2017
Warm welcome for new district court judges
Three practitioners who were appointed as district court judges in WA have been congratulated by ...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...